Thursday, June 22, 2006

In the Valley of Cauteretz

by Alfred, Lord Tennyson

All along the valley, stream that flashest white,
Deepening thy voice with the deepening of the night,
All along the valley, where thy waters flow,
I walked with one I loved two and thirty years ago.
All along the valley while I walked to-day,
The two and thirty years were a mist that rolls away;
For all along the valley, down thy rocky bed,
Thy living voice to me was as the voice of the dead,
And all along the valley, by rock and cave and tree,
The voice of the dead was a living voice to me.

* * *

This is a rather random poem, having nothing to do with anything I've said recently, nor with the new series I'm going to start once I've thought a little more about it. (I'll give you a hint: it's religious and rather obscure. No more politics for me, not for a good long while!)

But this poem was going through my head because I was thinking how time can seem "a mist that rolls away" when we find ourselves in familiar circumstances. Every time I come home from college, it seems I've never left. And every time I return, it seems I was only gone a very short time. I hardly ever feel that I've changed, or that any time has passed. Talking to the same old people makes everything feel as it used to -- a comforting feeling.

I wouldn't think that feeling would remain even after a friend had died. But apparently it did, at least for Tennyson.

Speaking of dying, pray for a Christendom friend of mine whose father died two days ago. Requiescat in pace.


Dr. Thursday said...

Amen. Et lux perpetua luceat ei.

The poem has a minor tone, somber. The repeated "all along the valley" gives me the feel of the never-ending rush of the waters.

And the whole gives the poetic version of that part of Moussorgsky's "Pictures at an Exhibition" called "Catacombs" with its strange inscription:

Cum mortuis in lingua mortua

Great chords crashing.

But then after fighting the witch and she flees before us, we come the Great Gate of Kiev, and the triumphant promenade comes again, breaking as the dawn did, two days after the full moon of spring, two thousand years ago:

"Then He said her name: Mary..."

"The voice of the dead was a living voice to me."

Sheila said...


I love "Pictures at an Exhibition."

Nick Milne said...

Thanks for posting this, Sheila. Tennyson is an old favourite of mine, and it's always good to see him getting exposure from various nooks and crannies. Are you familiar with his In Memoriam? For indeed, there is in that perhaps the ultimate in Tennysonian statements on the end of things.

And I will echo Dr. Thursday's statement concerning "Pictures at an Exhibition," and especially "The Great Gate of Kiev." It's some powerful listening, and will certainly lift even the most bitter mood.

Sheila said...

Oh, I'm quite familiar with In Memoriam. In fact, I posted some of it a long time ago. It's in my archives somewhere now.

My favorites, though, are "Ulysses," "The Lady of Shalott," and Maud. (Yes, I know. I'm a hopeless romantic. I guess all my readers know that by now.)

Nick Milne said...

There is no shame in being a romantic, only in being a hopeless one. Nobody without hope would cling to it with the tenacity that you have, anyhow.

In any event, "Ulysses" and "The Lady of Shalott" are two of my very favourites as well, though I count "The Kraken" and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" superior to my tastes (the former, in particular, is majestic).

And I shall be entering your triolet contest.

Sheila said...

I have hope -- there's just no hope that I might ever stop being such a romantic!

"The Charge of the Light Brigade" is very good also; I can't believe I forgot that one. I'll have to read "The Kraken" again.

Looking forward to reading your triolets . . .